Lifestyle

Margarita Mondays and Taco Tuesdays

A Brief Look at Mexican Food in American Culture By: Lucas Heckenberger, Lehigh Valley’s Cocktail Connoisseur We’ve all heard of them; Margarita Monday! Taco Tuesday! Avocado toast, and guacamole on everything. How did these things become so popular today? Where do these traditions actually come from? Let’s take a look. In this day and age, […]

A Brief Look at Mexican Food in American Culture
By: Lucas Heckenberger, Lehigh Valley’s Cocktail Connoisseur

We’ve all heard of them; Margarita Monday! Taco Tuesday! Avocado toast, and guacamole on everything. How did these things become so popular today? Where do these traditions actually come from? Let’s take a look.

In this day and age, many people have taken the time to study and look back at the history and origins of cocktails, rather than try and mass replicate them. The margarita has a muddled past, and there are a few people who claim to have invented the iconic classic.

The first claim to creation is in 1938 at a restaurant called Rancho La Gloria in northern Mexico. It was created for a patron who was allergic to all spirits, except for Tequila. The original recipe was most likely equal parts tequila, orange liqueur, and lime juice. Another story takes place in Ensenada, Mexico at a Hussong’s Cantina. Don Carlos Orozco is said to have been experimenting with tequila, Controy (a close cousin to Cointreau) and lime. Margarita Henkel, daughter of the German ambassador to Mexico at the time, was the first to try the drink and he aptly named it Margarita after her.

However, there is one theory that I personally think holds truer than the others. There is a cocktail called a Daisy that shared many similarities to the Margarita. The most notable distinction is the base spirit of brandy versus tequila. Somewhere along the way, someone substituted tequila for the brandy and used lime instead of lemon and simply renamed daisy into its Spanish counterpart, Margarita.

As is with anything over time, things change and evolve. I will never mix up an equal part margarita, and most restaurants do not. Here is my recipe for a proper margarita:

  • 2 ounces Blanco Tequila (Herradura, Espolon, or Tres Agaves are my go-to’s.)
  • 1/2-ounce Cointreau (much better than Triple Sec.)
  • 1-ounce Fresh Lime Juice (If you see sour coming out of a gun or a jug, opt for a different cocktail!)
  • 1 ounce of Simple Syrup (Equal parts sugar and water, dissolved together.)

Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker, add ice and strain on the rocks or served up. I do not care for salt as it dehydrates you and probably makes hangovers worse if you knock more than a few back!

Personally, I always start with a drink and then move on to something more along the lines of a snack. That’s where the guacamole comes in. This delightful dish has origins that date back to the 1500s and the Aztecs. Guacamole literally translates to “avocado sauce.” The base recipe has been relatively untouched since the 1500s; guacamole, tomato, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro, lime, salt, pepper, and the juice of half a lime. It wasn’t until the 1930s that avocado and guacamole became popular in the states. Rudolph Haas, a postal worker in southern California during the era, purchased a seedling and started cultivating in the 1930s and later patented the Haas avocado, the most popular brand today.

So, after a couple of rounds of margaritas, some guac, it is now time for the tacos!

Oddly, the term taco doesn’t necessarily have origins in the food world alone. In the 1800s the charges used to clear silver mines were known as tacos due to a paper being wrapped around the gunpowder and then charged to clear the way. One of the first mentions of the food taco is known as “tacos de mineros” or, miner’s tacos. Who knew?

Due to the nature of working-class neighborhoods in Mexico and the southwest, coupled with the number of migrant workers, taquerias were very prevalent in many neighborhoods. Tacos are more commonly known to be either a corn or flour tortilla with some kind of meat and vegetable wrapped in between. Today, there are fish tacos, pork, vegetarian and plenty of other kinds of varieties. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the taco craze really hit America. Maybe you’ll recognize the name Glenn Bell. If not, I’ll let you in on a secret; he went on to found Taco Bell. Despite not having invented the taco itself, Bell simply used American business acumen and began franchising in neighborhoods where there was no exposure to tacos otherwise.

Since then, many of these traditions have become staples of any kind of cuisine across the US. But, that’s the beauty of it. It fits into any category of food, almost any influence and is found on menus everywhere. We’re lucky to have so many that specialize here in the Valley, and it makes sense. Almost 85% of the foodservice industry consists of people of Latin descent. Without them, we wouldn’t enjoy so many of these staples we do. So, raise a glass and a shell, and celebrate the simplicity and humility of a staple to our cuisine.

Salud!

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DNA Health Data Analysis

We now more than ever have so much science available at our fingertips and the online shopping readiness for our healthy spending habits. Some questions I asked myself were: What is the value in understanding more about my DNA? How can DNA data help me positively impact my long-term health, fitness, and lifestyle? What if […]

We now more than ever have so much science available at our fingertips and the online shopping readiness for our healthy spending habits. Some questions I asked myself were:

  1. What is the value in understanding more about my DNA?
  2. How can DNA data help me positively impact my long-term health, fitness, and lifestyle?
  3. What if I learn things from my DNA that concern me in relation to illness, disease, etc.?

On Valentine’s Day 2018, my fiancé helped me indulge my healthy research obsession and purchased me the 23andMe DNA Test that included Health + Ancestry. The 23andMe reports were quite informative. Some of the health-related report categories include Carrier Status, Genetic Health Risk, and Wellness.

Now for this article, we’re going deeper in relation to recommended supplements. Dr. Anthony Jay Ph.D. has co-hosted my podcast show multiple times, got word of my 23andMe test. Dr. Jay offers this deeper DNA and genetic analysis services. He’s currently researching Stem Cells and Epigenetics at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota too!

Okay, so without further ado, let’s dig into Dr. Jay’s report on my DNA from AJConsultingCompany.com!

KEY SUPPLEMENTS AND CHEMICALS YOU SHOULD ESPECIALLY AVOID BASED ON YOUR DNA

Here is what I found based on my analysis of your +/+ DNA gene variants.

Based on your specific +/+ COMT gene variant (catechol-O-methyltransferase), you likely need to eat more salt and drink more water than normal. I use and recommend Redmond Real Salt since it has no radioactivity, no microplastics, and a complete mineral profile. Also, because of this COMT gene, adrenaline will stay in your body longer than normal. This can inhibit your digestion and sleep after an intense event so be sure to explore techniques to “wind down” in evenings and around meal times. I recommend magnesium supplementing in the evenings and workouts/exercise earlier in the day rather than later. In addition, having high levels of vitamin D and/or estrogen can lower the function of this enzyme, so you don’t want high levels of vitamin D and estrogen.

Based on your specific +/+ VDR gene variant (vitamin D [1,25- dihydroxy vitamin D3] receptor), you need to get higher-than-normal levels of vitamin D; preferably from plenty of sunshine. In winter, supplement at least 5,000 IU every day and probably closer to 10,000 IU each day. Never supplement vitamin D in the evening as it causes poor sleep in a surprising number of people (it inhibits melatonin production). Ideally, take a week or two in the dead of winter and visit southern Florida or a similar tropic region each year.

Based on your specific +/+ BHMT gene variant (betaine-homocysteine methyltransferase), you likely have higher-than-normal levels of “homocysteine” in your body. You should experiment with supplementing with vitamin B6 at 100mg per day (5,000%) to help lower your homocysteine (inflammation), along with other B vitamins (use a “B Complex”) so you don’t get a B vitamin imbalance. You should also eat less processed sugar and research additional ways you might lower general inflammation throughout your body (for example, exercising consistently, supplementing DHA/fish oil, and supplementing curcumin regularly). Alternatively, rather than B vitamin supplementing, eat foods rich in vitamin B6 at least twice per day. These foods include seafood, meats, and eggs. Pistachios are also good. Finally, be sure to get 100% daily value of zinc each day.

Based on your specific +/+ SOD2 gene variant (superoxide dismutase 2), you need to get 100% daily value of manganese every day. Preferably, simply eat a handful of pecans every day, since these have high levels of manganese and low phytic acid (Brazil nuts have high levels of phytic acid, so these are not an ideal manganese source). Next, eat more antioxidant-rich foods than normal, such as colorful fruits and vegetables. If you can afford it, try supplementing “liposomal glutathione” because it will probably work for you; try cycling this supplement into your diet on and off – especially when you are under high-stress loads.

In general, +/- gene variants have less negative health impacts. If you have several +/- issues that affect one gene, though, they are more likely to cause problems. Based on my analysis of your +/- DNA gene variants, I found one additional and notable specific issue.

Based on your specific +/- NAT2 gene variants (N-acetyltransferase 2), you need to be especially careful to avoid any and all carcinogens as much as possible. Google and research “top carcinogens” and see if you are regularly exposed to any of these. Because of this issue, vitamin C is more important for you than people without this DNA variant (vitamin C is both an antioxidant and it generates hydrogen peroxide when it is broken down – which also can kill cancer cells rather than put them on life support like other antioxidants can do!). I prefer you get high doses of vitamin C from foods like guava, bell peppers, kiwi, strawberries, oranges, and papaya but you can also supplement vitamin C at the upper limits of recommended values in cycles (like one week off and one week on). This will help diminish cancer-causing problems from carcinogenic items. Avoid vitamin C supplements that have carbs, sugars, or artificial dyes. Garlic is also likely to diminish the function of this enzyme even further in your body – something that may not be optimal for you.

Disclaimer… The information provided above is my own research, opinions, and experiences. Scott Mulvaney (LIVETHEFUEL) is not liable for any personal decisions. Please always consult a professional doctor when appropriate, especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions.

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Cigar Review

5 Vegas Limitada 2018 Belicoso Honduras                            6.25” x 52                             Medium               92-Rated Aged Dominican and Nicaraguan long-fillers mingle inside this Belicoso to deliver layers of cocoa, nuts and cedar. A milk chocolate brown, Ecuadorian Sun Grown wrapper glistens with oils, lending a long finish filled with earth and spice. Expect a full-flavored bouquet that’s medium in […]

5 Vegas Limitada 2018 Belicoso5 Vegas Limitada 2018 Belicoso
Honduras                            6.25” x 52                             Medium               92-Rated

Aged Dominican and Nicaraguan long-fillers mingle inside this Belicoso to deliver layers of cocoa, nuts and cedar. A milk chocolate brown, Ecuadorian Sun Grown wrapper glistens with oils, lending a long finish filled with earth and spice. Expect a full-flavored bouquet that’s medium in body, balanced throughout and complemented by a zesty aroma on the nose. I’ve burned a dozen of these Belicosos, and each has delivered exactly like the last: deliciously.

Diesel Whiskey Row ToroDiesel Whiskey Row Toro
Nicaragua                            6.0” x 54                               Full                         93-Rated

One word: unique. This hefty Toro employs bold tobaccos patiently aged in oak barrels once used to craft Rabbit Hole bourbon…and you can tell with every last puff. 3 types of vintage, Nicaraguan ligero leaves are balanced by a 5-year-old Ecuador Habano wrapper. The cigar is rich throughout, offering dense notes of earth, wood, and sweet spices. Big flavors, eclipsed only by sweet, oaky nuances and aromas from the bourbon barrels. Diesel Whiskey Row, a must-try.

Gurkha 130th Reserve Churchill TuboGurkha 130th Reserve Churchill Tubo
Dominican Republic        7.5” x 52                               Medium-Full      95-Rated

The 130th Reserve had me at hello, thanks to an impressive crystal tube enclosed by wax. The oversized Churchill sports an oily, Ecuador Habano wrapper and sits heavy in my hand. Upon lighting, a super-smooth bouquet blankets every last taste bud. Oak and leather dominate up front, preparing my palate for hints of toast and white pepper. The hearty wrapper dishes out a rich peppery-sweetness that lingers long after each puff. Exquisite. Luxurious. Worth it.

Macanudo Inspirado Black ToroMacanudo Inspirado Black Toro
Dominican Republic        5.5” x 54                               Full                         92-Rated

Inspirado Black is bold in flavor from start to finish. I notice some spice up front, which eventually subsides to present a soothing series of unsweetened cocoa and roasted espresso bean flavors. Common flavors from superior Nicaraguan long-fillers. Midway through, a toasty, nutty character shines, just before a spicy finale. The dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper keeps things rich and smooth throughout. This is not your Dad’s Macanudo.

Romeo y Julieta Media Noche RobustoRomeo y Julieta Media Noche Robusto
Dominican Republic        5.0” x 54                               Medium               91-Rated

For Romeo’s Media Noche it all begins with the Mexican San Andres wrapper. This beloved maduro leaf offers a dense, spicy-sweetness that’s earthy and almost chewy on the palate. Aged long-fillers from the Dominican tame this wrapper’s profile, adding a smooth core of coffee, nuts, toast, and a honey-like sweetness. There’s a lot going on here, and the slow burn provides ample time to both realize and enjoy every touch of complexity. This Romeo is complex yet easy-going.

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Cigar Reviews: Spring 2018

Caldwell Eastern Standard Cypress Room (robusto) Dominican  Republic        6.0”x54                               Medium 94-Rated I’ll start my review with one word: smooth. Then I’ll add another just before it: buttery smooth. Everything about Caldwell Eastern Standard is smooth. From the silky Ecuador Connecticut wrapper to the soft, pillowy smoke that fills thy palate. Beneath this dark-ish leaf, Nicaraguan and […]

Caldwell Eastern Standard Cypress Room (robusto)
Dominican  Republic        6.0”x54                               Medium
94-Rated
I’ll start my review with one word: smooth. Then I’ll add another just before it: buttery smooth. Everything about Caldwell Eastern Standard is smooth. From the silky Ecuador Connecticut wrapper to the soft, pillowy smoke that fills thy palate. Beneath this dark-ish leaf, Nicaraguan and Dominican tobaccos unite to present a medium-bodied array of cedar and cream with a lemon-like citrus. During the burn, a dash of white pepper completes each puff and lingers nicely on the finish.
Camacho Powerband Gordo
Honduras                            6.0”x60                               Full
91-Rated
This 60-ring vitola is big, beefy, solid from head to toe and sits heavy in my hand. The pre-light is straight barnyard, which I love. Upon lighting, I get blasted with charcoal and earth. A bold start, that eventually mellows to unveil a dark, roasted display of bitter cocoa and toasted oak. The finish is long, dominated by earthy undertones and complemented by pepper. The strength increases towards the nub, helping to complete a robust and satisfying experience.
Cohiba Blue Robusto
Dominican Republic        5.5”x50                               Medium
90-Rated
A 3-country blend from Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican mingle inside a leathery-brown Honduran wrapper to create Cohiba Blue. The cigar burns a bit fast, but stays cool and brings a wealth of subtle flavors I enjoy. Leather, sweet tobacco, cedar and cream. The smoke is smooth out of the gates and remains medium in body throughout. I noticed no bells, nor whistles, but found Cohiba Blue to be a straightforward yet flavorful cigar with delightful aromas.
Mi Querida SakaKhan (Churchill)
Nicaragua 7.0”x50 Medium-Full
93-Rated
Sometimes I say chewy. Grab a Mi Querida. You’ll know why. The dark, Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper on this slow-burning Churchill delivers a rich and sweet flavor with a chewy mouthfeel. A nice vehicle to prepare my palate for a dense series of earth, cocoa and espresso bean. Midway through, the Nicaraguan tobaccos inside kick in, revealing earth and pepper backed by ample power. I suggest setting aside a good hour-plus for this cigar. It burns slow and is worth the attention.
Rocky Patel 1961 Toro
Nicaragua                            6.5” x 52                               Medium
91-Rated
Disclaimer: 1961 may not be Rocky’s finest creation, but I’ll be damned if you can find something more relaxing with an RP band on it. The cigar is gorgeous, sporting an oily, reddish Habano wrapper from Ecuador. Underneath, well-aged Nicaraguan tobaccos marry to create a smooth and sweet cigar. I get sweet tobacco and sweet cedar, followed by a spicy-sweet aftertaste. The aroma is like freshly baked bread and, every now and then, it hits the taste buds. It’s pretty darn good.

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Wine Glasses: The Last Step from Grape to Pleasure

The typical wine drinker tends to put a fair amount of thought into the wines they purchase, but less so into the glass. Yet the glass is the final step in a wine’s long journey from grape to your palate. It is a vessel that has the final word and matching the wine you are […]

The typical wine drinker tends to put a fair amount of thought into the wines they purchase, but less so into the glass. Yet the glass is the final step in a wine’s long journey from grape to your palate. It is a vessel that has the final word and matching the wine you are drinking with the correct style of glass can enhance that experience.
Historically wine has been drunk from a number of different containers of various size, shape, and construction – from leather wine bags or cow horns to wooden bowls to ornately wrought cups of metals and other materials.
Today’s wine glass is typically made of colorless crystal or glass (to best evaluate the wine’s color) with a foot and stem (although stemless are also popular if a bit more informal), and a bowl that typically narrows at the top.
The design of the glass is often matched to the style of wine to best match each wine’s specific aroma and flavor profile. The concept behind which is that most of how we perceive taste is actually through our sense of smell (olfactory). As wine is poured into the bowl-shaped glass, it interacts with air as it swirls around. As most wine glasses are narrower at the top, these aromas are captured, concentrated and focused to deliver maximum sensation.
The Bordeaux glass, with its a taller, narrower oval profile, and the Burgundy glass, with a wider, rounder bowl shape, are two of the most common shapes for red wines. A scaled down version of both is typically used for whites.
Champagne, in the past often drunk in wide, flat “coupes” has evolved to the flute, and now the trend is towards using a classic white wine glass to optimize the wine’s aroma and flavor best. In addition to these basics, there is an overwhelming array of other glasses for Port, Sherry, specific wine regions, grape varieties, and more.
While the sheer number of wines glass styles available is often more closely driven by marketing than practicality, pairing the wine with the right glass does work. A light delicate white may not have the stuffing to fill a large Bordeaux glass, leaving the wine’s aroma diffused or diluted, while a smaller white wine glass will nicely capture and deliver them. Conversely, a full-bodied classic red like Bordeaux will seem confined in a small glass, and you will miss some of what it has to offer.  A larger Bordeaux shape will allow its aromas to fully develop and be enjoyed to their fullest potential.
Heavy cut crystal has given way to a finer, more delicate and lighter glass, with companies such as Riedel and Zalto, with its sleek, modern angular shape, currently crafting some of the finest and most popular examples. It was the Austrian Riedel company, with incredible marketing savvy, that lead the charge to ever more wine specific shapes, sizes, and price points.
And while the incredible array of stemware on the market can seem daunting, just a few shapes and styles will get all but the most finicky wine lover quite nicely to the bottom of the bottle.
A standard white wine glass, a scaled down elongated egg shape, will do for any wine in a pinch. Practical and affordable, if you were to have just one glass this would be it.
Adding a large Bordeaux glass for deep, full-bodied reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah, and a rounder Burgundy bowl shape for aromatic reds (like Pinot Noir or and a few full-bodied whites) would be the next step. And depending on your preference for enjoying your sparkling wines, adding a Champagne flute would cover just about all of your wine needs.
Many of the finest and most expensive models are also very fragile, and perhaps best kept for special occasions and your finest bottles. It’s not a bad strategy to supplement them with a set of less expensive, sturdier, everyday glasses for casual use.
So when you next open a bottle of wine, be sure to get the most out if it and think about the glass as it conveys the wine on the last step of the journey. Cheers!

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Not Just Your Usual Gym: Workouts for Busy Professionals

“I’m traveling, so I’ll just schedule my rest days on my travel days.” What do you think drives statements like this? If you’re a heavy traveler, maybe it’s the frustration and boredom from the low-quality fitness facilities in many hotels. Another simple answer is just the fact that many busy professionals have fallen into a […]

“I’m traveling, so I’ll just schedule my rest days on my travel days.” What do you think drives statements like this? If you’re a heavy traveler, maybe it’s the frustration and boredom from the low-quality fitness facilities in many hotels. Another simple answer is just the fact that many busy professionals have fallen into a robotic training regime which doesn’t allow for flexibility and excitement from challenging yourself with new experiences. There’s more to a successful fit life than living on a hotel treadmill. If you travel often, many of us become overwhelmed with the decision to take the risk of selecting a new place to drop in as a guest.
Well, this is 2018, it’s time to drop the excuses and embrace the fears. Trying out new types of exercise or visiting boutique fitness facilities will assuredly come with initial concerns. The big benefit though is the excitement of gaining new ways to challenge your body and mind. This is your opportunity to think outside of the norm and try new ways to grow your healthy lifestyle balance. Here in the USA, we’ve developed limitless ways to stay fit.
Depending on who you speak to these days, you’ll find all types of trends that your fellow high performers are investing time into. Some of the top trends that have flowed over into 2018 include: HIIT, CrossFit, Zumba, Pilates, GRIT Workouts, Boxing, MMA, Barre, Yoga, and good old-fashioned weightlifting.
For the longest time now, a popular choice for travelers was to join a big name gym which had locations in all major cities. This ensures you can visit any of their facilities as an included benefit to your membership. Well, times have changed, and we can grow beyond the basic chain fitness brands. If you don’t mind paying a small drop-in fee, you can visit many other specialized facilities. Some of these can include local HIIT fitness facilities, CrossFit Boxes, MMA gyms, Yoga, and more. CrossFit is a great example of a worldwide brand that has grown beyond major cities. CrossFit boxes exist in just about any local community. This is thanks to its strong ties to entrepreneurial coaches who decided to build their own healthy community of members.
Here’s a quick overview of some of the top movers that have held sustained annual interest into 2018:
HIIT:
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and high work rate-type resistance training, also referred to as metabolic resistance training.
Quoted from the blog of NASM – National Academy of Sports Medicine.
CrossFit:
Constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. CrossFit workouts are based on functional movements, and these movements reflect the best aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing and more. These are the core movements of life.
Quoted from CrossFit.com
GRIT Strength:
LES MILLS GRIT ™ Strength is a 30-minute high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout, designed to improve strength and build lean muscle. This workout uses barbell, weight plate, and body weight exercises to blast all major muscle groups.
Quoted from LesMills.com
TITLE Boxing and MMA Training:
Boxing has been traced back to as early as January 1681. The first recorded boxing match, in Britain, was engineered by Christopher Monck, 2nd Duke of Albemarle.
As of 2018, you can train in Kickboxing, Cage Fighting, and many of the MMA styles. This was a major expansion since 2007, beyond the traditional form of boxing when TITLE was founded in 1998.
Quoted from TitleBoxing.com
Barre:
Barre is about the physical as well as the aesthetic benefits of lengthening muscles while strengthening them. Barre combines Pilates, Yoga and Ballet moves to give you beautiful, sculpted, lean muscles – without the impact and injuries dancers endure.
Quoted from BarreOnline.com
“Don’t knock it, ‘til you try it!” Life is short, movement of the body is crucial at all ages. Openness to change, as in fitness, shifts with age, income, and lifestyle. Nutrition, rest/recovery, and exercise are all essential for balancing a healthy life. Please be patient with your goals and allow for realistic timelines to prevent self-defeating reactions. As with any new change, it takes time to allow your interest and positive results to get established.
Disclaimer… The information provided above is my own research, opinions, and experiences. Scott Mulvaney (LIVETHEFUEL) is not liable for any personal decisions. Please always consult a professional doctor when appropriate, especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions.

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Hard Rock Resort Punta Cana!

Where can you find a gorgeous beach, all-inclusive amenities, 1,485 lavish rooms, a 45,000 square foot casino, an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus golf course, an opulent state of the art spa and live concerts by famed artists like Justin Bieber, Maroon Five, and Sting?  Those features and more are all located at the ultra-hip Hard Rock […]

Where can you find a gorgeous beach, all-inclusive amenities, 1,485 lavish rooms, a 45,000 square foot casino, an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus golf course, an opulent state of the art spa and live concerts by famed artists like Justin Bieber, Maroon Five, and Sting?  Those features and more are all located at the ultra-hip Hard Rock Resort in Punta Cana, DR.  Gone are the days where everything quiets down at 9 pm at an island resort.  Hard Rock has made it their mission to indulge their clientele in entertainment, gaming, and sports activities as well as highlight the all-inclusive dining features luxury Caribbean resorts have been known for.
The Hard Rock resort in Punta Cana has 13 unique restaurants, four trendy bars, a super chic nightclub (Club Oro), children’s activity center, 12 outdoor pools, and wedding packages designed by famous wedding planner to the stars, Colin Cowie.
Each of their over the top rooms are classified as suites.  Their entry-level suite is over 781 square feet and includes a double Jacuzzi, in room stocked mini bar, 24-hour room service, free Wi-Fi and LCD TV with satellite.
Because Punta Cana has seen a huge spike in tourism over the last decade, the government has completed several projects to entice visitors to travel to the Dominican.  In 2012, major road work resulted in a sleek new highway that offers travelers the option to fly into Santo Domingo, La Romana or Punta Cana with less than an hour drive between destinations.  No longer do vacationers have to dread a 3-hour drive from the airport.  With more choices of airports to fly into, travelers have more options thus providing more competition for reduced airfare prices.
The Dominican Republic has been a leader in tourism over the past 15 years, and the calm Caribbean waters along Punta Cana’s famous beaches create an idyllic vacation setting.  With the addition of the Hard Rock Resort, Punta Cana now has a world-class casino, and their 14,000 square foot Club Oro nightclub transforms this sleepy beach town into one of the trendiest spots south of Miami!
Hard Rock Punta Cana also uses their ties with the music industry to host star-studded concerts throughout the year. Celebrities are often seen frequenting the pools and gaming till all hours of the night in the casino.  Every reservation at Hard Rock also includes resort credit, unlimited golf and limitless spa services that only require guests to pay a small tax/gratuity.  These added features and Hard Rock’s live music events have truly redefined traveler’s expectations for an all-inclusive experience.

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Yes, Virginia, There Is a Pilot Shortage!

Say what you will about why, how, and who is responsible, but from an aviation perspective, business is booming. The competition is fierce for qualified aviators. To cover current and future aviation needs, Boeing states that over 637,000 new pilots need to join the workforce in the next twenty years. That means that eighty-seven trained, […]

Say what you will about why, how, and who is responsible, but from an aviation perspective, business is booming. The competition is fierce for qualified aviators. To cover current and future aviation needs, Boeing states that over 637,000 new pilots need to join the workforce in the next twenty years. That means that eighty-seven trained, and qualified candidates must begin their pilot training and aviation career, every single day, to meet the forecasted growth.

The concern for a pilot shortage has been discussed for several years, but no one could have been ready for the impact it is currently having.
In a 2013 article in Robb Report’s Private Aviation Sourcebook, Pete Agur (chairman and founder of the VanAllen Group; an aviation consulting firm in Georgia) wrote about the potential downside to a continued economic upswing following the Great Recession: a pilot shortage. He spoke of the ability of older more experienced pilots whose 401Ks and retirement accounts had been adversely affected by the recession becoming solvent again and able to retire. As this predicted mass exodus of older pilots is occurring, fewer young people have been choosing aviation paths for a multitude of reasons.
Historically, most pilots were trained by the military. Today, the use of drones and lack of large-scale military buildup has drastically reduced the number of pilots, pilot jobs, and flight training in the military. The navy has predicted a 10 percent shortage of pilots by 2020, and the air force is expecting to be 1,000 pilots short of its target number by 2022. Further, the industry has neglected to market to a huge demographic — women. Currently, only 3-5 percent of pilots worldwide are female. “At least 50 percent of the population is female, but very few women pursue a professional pilot career,” says Ron Rapp, an experienced corporate pilot, and prolific aviation writer.
Another reason is the length of time to train is a long and expensive road. The salaries and working conditions at regional airlines—essentially the minor leagues for pilots looking to move up to major carriers or corporate-jet jobs—used to deter people from entering the pilot profession. They started around $20K with lousy schedules and worse benefits. Considering that aspiring aviators could conceivably spend $100K in training costs, you begin to see the problem. But that is changing significantly. For example, Piedmont, a feeder for American Airlines, is advertising for pilots:

  • $60,000 the first year pay for first officers with all signing bonuses
  • $39.37 per hour for 1,000 hours
  • $16,200 signing bonus
  • $5,000 signing bonus for current Part 121 experience

They show a graph that says in 15 years they’ll be making over $300K.
Envoy, another feeder for American Airlines is advertising a potential $45K signing bonus.
Airlines are targeting business aviation pilots specifically because they’re a known quality.
While this shortage is great for aviators, it is having an adverse effect on smaller business operators. The industry as a whole has not adapted in a timely manner. While the larger operators and the airlines have lowered their minimum flight time requirements and increased their beginning salaries and signing bonuses the auditing companies have not adjusted their requirements for their higher ratings. Large corporations view safety auditing companies like Wyvern and ArGus as the standard bearers for private aviation. These auditing companies charge tens of thousands of dollars to audit companies on their procedures & crews. They also have flight time minimums for pilot experience for those higher ratings. As the more experienced pilots go to bigger companies who can afford to pay the higher salaries being demanded, the smaller operations have to scrabble over the entry-level aviators. This is not to say that entry-level aviators are NOT safe. In over 25 years in the industry, I’ve seen 500-hour pilots who were much safer in the cockpit than 2000 hour pilots who thought they were infallible.

However, the auditing companies say differently, and the big corporations listen.
Eventually, the industry will balance out. Pilots will make a decent wage, charter & airline prices will rise to cover them & perhaps even the auditing companies will be more realistic about what constitutes a safe operation. But it’s going to be a while.

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Cigar Reviews: Winter 2018

CAO Flathead V660 Carb Nicaragua               6.0” x 60               Full 95-Rated Big. Beefy. Box-Pressed. Also, the head is flat. The V660 Carb sits like a brick in my hand, and burned slower than a decision on Ezekiel’s suspension during this review. A chocolate brown Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper cloaks this beast, imparting a rich bouquet that’s sweet […]

CAO Flathead V660 Carb

Nicaragua               6.0” x 60               Full

95-Rated

Big. Beefy. Box-Pressed. Also, the head is flat. The V660 Carb sits like a brick in my hand, and burned slower than a decision on Ezekiel’s suspension during this review. A chocolate brown Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper cloaks this beast, imparting a rich bouquet that’s sweet on the finish. Underneath, Nicaraguan and Dominican long-fillers combine to add leather, earth, and an almost sugary-sweetness I can only describe as molasses. Complex from the start, this CAO grows quite full throughout.

La Palina El Diario Torpedo

Honduras               6.1” x 52               Full

92-Rated

Leathery in appearance and oily to the touch, this powerful Honduran marries Nicaraguan Criollo and Corojo tobaccos inside an impressive Honduran Rosado wrapper. Aging is evident in the flavor, as this Torpedo dishes out big, bold flavors in surprisingly refined fashion. I get cocoa and spice up front, while cedar and rich tobacco linger on the finish just before a dash of white pepper enters the fray. Eventful yet graceful, El Diario is a perfect complement to a healthy pour after a generous meal.

New World by AJ Fernandez Churchill

Nicaragua               7.0” x 52               Medium-Full

93-Rated

I’ll say it now. I love cigars with tobaccos cultivated from the volcanic soils of Ometepe. These leaves are robust and flavorful, offering a gritty earthiness you’ll notice instantly. AJ combined these tobaccos with rich, chocolatey leaves from Esteli and aromatic long-fillers from Condega, then topped them off with a dark Nicaraguan wrapper. Espresso notes mingle with spicy-sweet nuances with each cocoa-laced puff. Then there’s the luxurious aroma, which I find myself savoring each time I put this Churchill down.

Partagas Aniversario 170 Robusto

Dominican Republic               5.0” x 50               Medium

94-Rated

Complex, no doubt, the 170th anniversary of Partagas had me at the pre-light aroma. Part freshly-baked bread, part barnyard, this cigar has a lot going on even before it’s lit. Upon lighting, the promise continues to the tune of sweet cedar, cream, toast, pepper, and dark chocolate. Midway through, I pick up a nuttiness…almost like the roasted skin of a peanut. Four countries came together to make this beauty, including Cameroon for the wrapper, Connecticut, USA for the Habano binder, and a blend of long-fillers from Nicaragua and the Dominican.

Quesada Reserva Privada Toro

Dominican Republic        5.6” x 54               Mild-Medium

92-Rated

Blonde in color, Quesada Reserva employs a seamless Connecticut wrapper from Ecuador. Rich and soothing, this leaf produces a creamy core that clings to the palate. Underneath, Dominican long-leaf tobaccos meet dark, Pennsylvania Broadleaf long-fillers to create a lovely rich and elegant array of flavor. A nuttiness is present, but doesn’t overshadow subtle hints of wood, rich tobacco, and citrus. Soothing yet satisfying, Quesada Reserva was an enjoyable cigar to review to say the least.

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Second Labels

Finding Value in the Classic Wine Regions of the World For those who love wines from the great classic regions of the world – Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscany and the Rhône – it has been hard to watch as these region’s top wines have escalated in price. Premier Grand Cru Classé Mouton Rothschild’s 2000 vintage was […]

Finding Value in the Classic Wine Regions of the World

For those who love wines from the great classic regions of the world – Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscany and the Rhône – it has been hard to watch as these region’s top wines have escalated in price. Premier Grand Cru Classé Mouton Rothschild’s 2000 vintage was released at about $275 per bottle in 2001, and now fetches about $1,300 per bottle. The newest release, the 2016 vintage, is around $550 per bottle and won’t even be bottled for a year! Many others have taken even more dramatic price increases, especially some of the smaller right bank properties, making many of the region’s top wines out of reach for the average consumer.
Bordeaux is not the only place where rampant price increases have driven many buyers out of the market. World famous Super-Tuscan Sassicaia 2007 cost about $83 on release, the current vintages are about $200. Burgundy’s top estates may have seen the most extreme increases, fueled by world wide collector demand and tiny productions. Armand Rousseau’s highly sought after 1999 Gevrey Chambertin, 1er Cru, Clos St. Jacques, was a mere $85 per bottle on release. Current vintages top $700 per bottle if you can find it. Domaine de La Romnée Conti? Forget about it! A single bottle can set you back well over $10,000.
The affordable answer lies in buying second labels from great producers. In Bordeaux, the goal of the Châteaux is to make the very best wine they can for the “Grand Vin”, the top wine of the estate. This is done by carefully selecting the best lots and barrels and blending them to become the final wine. Wines that don’t make the cut – not always inferior but sometimes they just don’t suit the blend or style the winemaker is seeking are often put into a second label. Some have third labels, but any wine they don’t feel is up to the standards of the winery is sold off in bulk.
Second labels are produced from the same estate grapes and the same team used for the top wines. As such, they often reflect much of the same style as the top wines, but they are typically about half as much money. In addition, they are often vinified in a way that they’ll be more accessible when they are young, eliminating the need for a decade or more of cellaring before they are ready to drink. True, some second wines now cost more than the firsts did not that many years ago – but if you stay away from the Premier Grand Cru Classés and focus on 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Growths, you will find dozens of bargains.
La Croix de Ducru Beaucaillou, Echo de Lynch Bages, and Les Griffons de Pichon Baron are all great examples that sell for under $50.
In the case of Burgundy, a step down to Bourgogne Rouge or Blanc from the pricier Village, Premier Cru, and Grand Cru designations will give you plenty of Burgundian character for under $30, especially from the ripe and lush 2015 vintage. The only issue there is frost, freeze, and hail that wreaked havoc with yields, resulting in shortages even of the lower price wines. Burgundy is a little trickier than Bordeaux – the best strategy is to seek a merchant that specializes and ask advice. They are not technically second labels, but they accomplish much of the same goals: earlier drinking, classically styled wines at a fraction of the price.
In Brunello, opting for a Rosso di Montalcino will get you plenty of Brunello character at a half or less than the real deal. Whereas Brunello must age for five years before release, Rosso’s only need one. Like their Burgundian and Bordelaise counterparts, these wines are vinified to be much more accessible when young, alleviating the need for long cellaring. Look for Rosso’s from top producers such as Pertimali, Siro Pacenti and more for some of the best values in Italy.
In the Rhône, look for Côtes du Rhône Villages instead of Cháteauneuf du Pape, Crozes Hermitage or Saint Joseph instead of Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, and you will find value and quality and incredible prices. A string of great vintages has generated a wealth of superb, affordable wines both in the northern and southern Rhône – don’t miss out!

Chris Cree MW is one of only 42 American Masters of Wine in the country. He is currently Director of Wine Education and Retail Operations at The Pluckemin Inn in Bedminster NJ. He can be reached at chriscreemw@pluckywineshop.com

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